Leviticus 8-10: Unauthorized and Authorized Fire

Devotionals > Old Testament > Leviticus > Leviticus 8-10: Unauthorized and Authorized Fire

Leviticus 8-10: Unauthorized and Authorized Fire

February 18, 2024


Leviticus 8-10; Psalm 40; Matthew 18:1-14; Acts 25:1-12

Leviticus 8-10:

The details of these sacrifices continue to be explained so that all is done “as the Lord commanded” (8:4, 9, 13, 17, 21, 29; 9:7, 10; 10:15). That emphasis on doing as God says, according to his word, is emphasized over and over again throughout these chapters. It is also underlined by the tragedy that befell Nadab and Abihu who offered “unauthorized fire” (10:1) before the Lord, and died as a result (10:2). Their sin was such that punishment and judgment was the just and inevitable consequence. God is teaching by this means that relational connection, nepotism—they are sons of Aaron even—is no barrier or “inside ticket” to the necessity of being forgiven through God’s sacrifice.

It is not just that they disobeyed some minor matter of a religious ceremony; they were attempting, by their “unauthorized fire,” to enter God’s presence without the atoning work of sacrifice done on their behalf. God is a holy God. We are sinners; we all deserve to die like Nadab and Abihu. Only God’s sacrifice, fulfilled in the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross, can atone for any of our sins. And in answer to the right sacrifice that Aaron performs, according to God’s and Moses’ instructions, fire comes from the Lord, and the glory of the Lord is manifest, and God’s people praise God for this public testimony of acceptance. Once again, we who live in the twenty-first century ask ourselves: “What can we learn from these chapters in Leviticus?” Perhaps at least three things. 

  1. We can learn that we are all sinners, and that proximity to godliness is not the same as actual godliness. Being related to a godly man or woman, being the child of a godly man or woman, is no replacement for actually following Jesus ourselves. 
  2. We can learn that access to God requires sacrifice. There is no “beatific vision” that can be gained by mere contemplation of the universal in some mystical experience or other. Access to God comes through the Son who reveals the Father, and whose blood shed for us grants us freedom of entrance to the presence of God without judgment or punishment, because the judgment and punishment was taken by Jesus for us and on our behalf. 
  3. We can learn to glory in the gospel. If this arrangement, this tabernacle, these sacrifices, were glorious, how much more glorious is the new covenant! How much more we should praise God for the wonder of having heard about Jesus, having the gospel of Christ preached to us, and being able to worship God in freedom and joy as a consequence! 


Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.


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